Feminine Hi-Fi, Brazil’s female reggae collective
All eyes will be on Brazil in the coming weeks as the Olympic circus arrives in Rio. The politics surrounding the whole event seem to be taking over, with the media focus on drug cheats, the Zika virus and the huge amounts of money spent on sport when it perhaps should be invested in raising everyone’s standard of living. All worthy stuff I know, but it does seem disjointed from the actual point of the whole shebang, sport, competition and bringing people together.
Far more interesting to me is Feminine Hi-Fi, a group of Brazilian women who are trying to balance out the male dominated world of reggae. Their set up includes hardware and amplification from system partner, Smoke Dub (although their own boxes are in the planning stage), but all other aspects are run by women, with female selectors and DJs on vinyl duty. I asked spokeswoman Dani I-Pisces to give me an idea of what Feminine Hi-Fi are trying to do and why the need for an all female crew. ‘Feminine Hi-Fi is a female union for empowerment, is energy that flows together and multiplies together through music and the message of the reggae music. It’s the dip in the sound waves of Jamaican music in the female perspective.’ Dani continued, ‘I think that even with the presence of collective and sound systems played by women around the world, the number is still much smaller than collective and sounds made by men. On the other hand, I feel that this time things seem to be changing, and women feel less and less repressed and increasingly able to fight for a space that is already ours, just missing occupy.’ After exchanging just a few emails with Dani, I got wrapped up in their energy and enthusiasm!
This may sound controversial but on the whole I do think women are on the periphery of the reggae scene (please correct me in the comments if you think I am wrong!). We can all think of some great singers such as Dawn Penn, Christine Miller, Janet Kay, JC Lodge etc, but how many are ‘behind the scenes’? This is why I think this group are a refreshing change, women taking control of all aspects and expressing themselves with this great musical form. Why shouldn’t they try to carve out their own space in the reggae landscape?
The founders of the group are Renata Rude Sistah Aguiar (a selector and vinyl collector from São Paulo), Andrea Lovesteady (DJ and selector), Dani I-Pisces (creator of the site Groovin Mood and promoter of Jamaican music) and Laylah Arruda (experienced singjay, who was the first Brazilian female reggae singer to appear on vinyl). The aim of the project is to offer space, not only for those who already work in reggae scene, but also (and especially) for those who want to take their first steps. This safe non judgemental environment is set up to unite, have fun, encourage and merge knowledge, joy and learning.
They play music from all eras of Jamaican music and it’s 100% vinyl from the personal collections of the selectors. In the best traditions of the sound system, the songs are interpreted by female singjays. Dani I-Pisces was behind a recent compilation ‘Brazilian Reggae Women vol 1’ which showcases some of the singers, and there is some beautiful stuff on this mix. My favourite so far is third track ‘O Dia Acorda’ from Maria Elvira. Maria has such a seductive voice and god reggae does sound good sung in Portuguese! ‘The River’ from I-Sarana is another great tune and is lent some familiar soul by the production skills of UK producer Alpha Steppa. Have a listen to the tracks on the Mixcloud link below.
Feminine Hi-Fi are back in action in September for their third official street party, where sixteen talented women will be gathered (eight selectors and eight female singers). Check out their Facebook page for more details. I will leave the last word to Dani, ‘We are creating a move unprecedented anywhere in the world when it comes to women in the sound system. This pioneering initiative was born by the personal experience of the organizers, who play reggae for years and always realized a number of barriers between the women action and the sound system. It’s very gratifying to realize that unity makes it more beautiful and stronger, and Feminine have two things above all:. Unity and music. Alone we don´t do as much as we can do together, and without music none of this would make sense.’
I really hope that this group reaches a wider audience, it will be very cool to see them playing over here in Europe. So in a message to promoters, record labels and producers across the world, book them, record them, publicise them in any way you can and help spread the word.
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